AIM Pilgrim Trust collections care grant – The Pen Museum

The Pen Museum – Collections care grant
Storage for centre collections

The Pen Museum opened in 2001 to promote and preserve the history and legacy of Birmingham’s important steel pen trade and is an independent accredited museum of charitable status based within a former Victorian pen factory in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. It is run by one part-time employee supported by nearly twenty loyal and dedicated volunteers.

A significant proportion (26%) of 3,453 accessioned objects were previously in temporary storage and a Storage Report and Collections Audit raised concerns about this situation and concomitant environmental conditions, in particular light levels and relative humidity. The AIM grant provided crucial support by enabling the museum to improve both the storage of its collection and environmental monitoring capabilities.

At the start of this project a space review was undertaken to identify a suitable and permanent storage location in a secure area. This area then underwent a major re-organisation in order to accommodate two new sturdy lockable metal cabinets. New secure and robust storage facilities significantly minimise the risk to our collection from physical forces as well ensuring improved consistency in collection care.

Acid free paper, archival plastic sleeves and labelling, were used to decant and relocate boxed collection objects into the new storage facilities whilst ensuring ease of retrieval. A new laptop and SPECTURM compliant collection database were purchased to accurately transfer and update our records. A further benefit of this grant was the ability to provide a dedicated user-friendly volunteer working space to monitor, examine and clean collection objects. This improves our collection care procedures and increases our ability to arrange access and plan new exhibition displays.

New volunteers were recruited to expand our Collection Team with comprehensive training and instructions provided for database management, environmental monitoring, and correct packing and handling of objects to ensure appropriate, consistent and sustainable collections care. This experience enables our volunteers to acquire new skills and capabilities in support of their personal or professional development.

Jane Harris, Operations Manager, The Pen Museum

Pictured: Storage at The Pen Museum before and after the project.